Dr. Manny Alvarez, senior managing health editor of FoxNews.com recently sat down with mental health consultant, Stefanie Weiss to talk about how social media is causing anxiety in kids and what parents to can do to help.
“I think kids base their self-worth today on how many followers they have, how many likes they're getting on their pictures or what comments they're getting from friends or not getting from other people that they wish that they did,” Weiss said.
Weiss said there are many ways social media can cause anxiety in kids and teens:
1) How many followers they have on networks like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can cause a great deal of anxiety and insecurity. Often, it’s more about quantity - not quality when it comes to how many likes, friends, comments, and followers kids have.
They are constantly thinking: ‘Why does my friend have more followers than I do?’ ... ‘What can I do to get more followers?’ ... ‘What is wrong with me that I don't have enough people following me?’ It leaves teens with feelings of depression and rejection. This is starting in the elementary school level today and only increasing as they get older.
2) I posted something and I can't take it back. This is a BIG one. Teens don't understand the repercussions of poor choices they make online. A negative comment, a question they wish they never asked can't be taken back. Adolescence and teen years are a time of exploration -- a time when they are deciding how they want people to perceive them. One wrong move online, like an inappropriate picture, can cause a great deal of backlash from their peers and their parents. The angst they feel knowing that it’s "out there" for all to see can leave them full of regret.
3) Going viral: A picture, a video, anything inappropriate can spread like wild fire! The peer pressure kids are facing to be funnier, racier, and more daring causes them to feel anxious about making the "right" decision.
4) Worrying if your parents will find out what you are up to is taken to a whole different level. Did I delete my conversation on my phone? Did my mom see what my boyfriend just texted me? Will my friend post the picture of us even though I told her not to? These are all worries kids are feeling on a daily basis when it comes to managing their social media profiles.
Weiss said the best thing parents can do is open the lines of communication with their teens.
“First of all, parents need to check what their kids are doing,” Weiss said. “When I'm working with parents, I will say to them 'You're better off just being honest having that communication with your children to say 'I'm going to check what you're doing, and I want you to know that schools check.'”